Last week’s post began a discussion of things we do to create a culture of spectators in our church rather than creating an environment that helps people worship with heart, soul, mind, and strength in participatory worship. If you did not have a chance to read that post, please take time to read that one first.
Today, I want to address perhaps one of the greatest “transgressions” of worship leaders that leads to congregational spectatorship–the key of the song. It is difficult to say just how huge this issue is, but I have experienced this problem in the majority of churches that I have attended that have a contemporary or blended style of music.
In order for people to sing the songs of worship, the songs have to be pitched in keys that the common person can sing. If songs are too high, many people just stop singing because it hurts to sing high. Some drop the key an octave it the song is pitched really high. The problem is that the average singer has a medium range, and many worship leaders have high voices and want to pitch the songs in keys they sound the best in. Remember that worship is not about dazzling the congregation with our awesome vocal skills.As worship leaders, it is paramount that we do all we can to facilitate the worship experience in such a way that the congregation can become involved in worship, setting an environment for people to encounter the transformational presence of God.
Here’s the bottom line. Select keys for songs that have the lowest note the congregation will sing at a Bb or occasional A. The highest note should be a D or Eb. The average person will struggle with E and above. (This is such an important concept that I have participants in my worship conferences to raise their right hands and pledge that they will never again lead the congregation in inappropriate keys!) If parts of the song stay at the high end of that range for a lengthy period, it will tire voices fast, so those songs need lower key considerations if the lowest note in the range is in acceptable limits.
What does that mean for your worship band? Once you have selected music that will be part of your congregational song (I will address song selection soon), determine what keys are acceptable for the voice range. There may be 1-3 keys that work, depending upon the range of the melody. Then always use those songs in the keys that you have determined are best.
Here’s an example.The song, Mighty to Save, is often done in the key of A. I have been in worship services where it is sung in an even higher key. The range of the song in A is within the guidelines until you get to the bridge, “Shine your light and let the whole world see….” Not only does the bridge go to a high E, but it stays high in the range throughout that section. The key of G works much nicer, and F is even better for the congregational voice. Conclusion, use the song in either the key of F or G (or endear yourselves to your musicians and do it in the key of Gb).
Look at your song list for Sunday. Are the keys appropriate for participatory congregational singing? If not, make the change and see what a difference it can make. If your congregation is used to not participating, it may take a while to break the cycle, so have patience, submit your worship planning to God, and lead the congregation to where they need to go.
Note: if the music you do comes from a hymnal, most likely the music is already placed in good keys for congregational singing.
Need help with finding the right keys for your songs? Here is a great resource.
Next week I will talk about another major hindrance to participatory worship–new songs. New songs can kill our worship or they can greatly enhance our worship. How do we make that determination? See you next week. Take a look at the post.
I welcome your comments..